What Are Antibodies and Antigens?

In simple terms, antibodies are proteins made by the immune system in response to antigens. Antigens may be viral, bacterial, or chemically-introduced, eg intentional exposure for therapeutic reasons. Antigens all share one characteristic: The body considers them "invaders." In some cases, the body gets help fighting antigens through vaccinations. Polyclonal antibodies are found in vaccines made from blood serum of horses, sheep, and other animals. The difficulty in using a polyclonal serum lies in the possible exposure of the patient to unintended antibodies found in the animal's serum.

What Are Monoclonal Antibodies, Then?

Monoclonal antibodies, or MAbs, were first successfully "made" in the mid-1970s using mice. It was discovered that by fusing a myeloma (a type of cancer cell that could live forever) to a specific antibody-making cell (which would die out after a predestined life cycle), the cell could both produce the desired antibody AND live forever. The resulting cell is called a "hybridoma" and provides a pure antibody, free of the possibility of introducing an unintended antibody to the patient.

The biggest advantage of MAbs lies in their ability to provide an endless supply of perfectly cloned antibody cells, which can be used to target a particular virus, bacteria or chemical and destroy it.

An early drawback to mouse-derived MAbs was the unfortunate side effect of the patient developing what is known as "human anti-mouse antibodies" which rendered mouse-derived MAbs ineffective; the human immune system would simply attack the mouse-derived antibody just as if it were an invading virus, rather than the delivery system for a cure.

GanMed BioTechnical was an early pioneer in the search for a way to prevent HAMA formation and the first company ever to successfully produce a consistent, high-quality MAb that the body would not reject as foreign. In a complex procedure, mouse antibody-producing genes are replaced by human antibody-producing genes, resulting in a "humanized" mouse-it still IS a mouse, of course, but its immune system produces human antibodies which are then fused with myeloma cells to produce fully humanized MAbs.

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